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Asphalt Primary: Yamaha FZ-09 VS. Triumph Bonneville T100

The Yamaha FZ-09 and the Triumph Bonneville T100 are the two street candidates in this Election Cycle, but only one can represent the Asphalt Party in the final tally.

And could they be any more different? Sitting on both of them at the local motorcycle mega mall, the ever-hovering salesman (please, just leave me alone) was put to the test, attempting to extoll the virtues of one, then the other, then back again as I kept swapping seats. I decided to sit on each bike at least a dozen times if for no other reason than to make him keep shifting his sales pitch until he ran out of things to say. He was speechless by Round 3 and wandered off towards a guy checking out NC700s.

As before, I’ve test ridden both of these bike again since my original summaries.

To the primary we go:

APPEARANCE

Can’t judge a book by its cover? Actually I can, quite easily in fact. I’m sure there are some misguided people out there who feel as if the Yamaha is a prettier bike than the Triumph; just know, I haven’t met any of you. In a landslide, the Bonneville wins this going away. It is a classic beauty, a bike’s whose looks could end the Middle East conflicts and bring about world peace, such is the broad consensus that its appearance is the epitome of what a motorbike should be.

The FZ-09, well, to me it looks like a Transformers-inspired futuristic streetfighter that could have been ridden by Roy Batty in “Blade Runner”. And that’s insta-cred in its own right, but not enough to slay the timeless looks of the Bonnie.

ENGINE

The Triumph’s 865cc parallel twin powerplant puts out a modest 68bhp. Its purpose is to propel you down the road in a dignified manner, with just enough beans to embarrass most cagers (an all important consideration).

The Yamaha’s 847cc triple is pure hooligan, pure power, and pure awesomeness. As much as I disdain making statements based on a couple of test rides, the FZ-09’s triple might be my favorite motorcycle engine. There’s nothing to hate, everything to love. The Yamaha crushes this category.

ERGOS

Advantage Yamaha again. Other than the horrific seat that crushes your nads against the tank (easily replaced… the seat, not your nads), the FZ-09 fits me like few bikes ever have. My 6’2″ 35 inch inseam frame is normally in search of more legroom, but not on this bike.

The Triumph would need some help. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but it would require the requisite seat upgrade, plus rear springs, and in a crisis, lowered footpegs.

FARKLES

Interesting category here, because the Bonneville is the quintessential blank canvas that allows a fellow to customize to his heart’s content. Decades of production means that the Triumph has a vast and well-supported aftermarket of goodies to address any and all of my desires. Leave it stock or mod it heavily, the sky is the limit.

The Yamaha, just a year and a bit into production, is playing catch up, but the aftermarket already has most of what I’d need. Seat, ECU, suspension, all easily accessible.

Overall, the slight nod goes to the Triumph, its long history the advantage here.

THE DECISION

Polar opposites, these two bikes. The Yamaha is all about the future; a new engine, ride-by-wire throttle with three settings, modern looks, and a svelte 100 pounds less than the Triumph, a number that I still can’t wrap my head around. One. Hundred. Pounds.

The T100 is all about the past. Its looks invoke more than 50 years of motorcycling heritage, a simple design with little more than modest refinements over the past 15 years of production.

Though the bikes are less than $1000 apart in MSRP, the Yamaha is the clear bang for the buck winner in this Election Cycle. 100+ HP and that ENGINE for $8k? No wonder it’s been such a sales hit in its first year.

Twenty years ago, fifteen years ago, ten years ago, even five years ago this decision would have gone to the FZ-09 without a second thought. It makes the most sense for the type of riding I’ve always done, and the ergos are damnably perfect.

Cue the shoe drop.

Getting the FZ-09 would be spiritually identical to the past bikes that I’ve owned. Nothing wrong with your favorite flavor of ice cream, but there are 30 others to try, after all. And the notion of owning a bike whose mere existence is a celebration of the motorcycle itself, well, that’s just too much for the romantic in me to resist.

ASPHALT CANDIDATE: Triumph Bonneville T100

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UPCOMING, the Election Cycle Final Decision! Broad versatility and modern electronics match up against an asphalt retro classic. It’s the BMW G650GS vs. Triumph Bonneville T100!

The final results are in!

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